Age of Climate Fury – Journal


Last month, when Lahore was once again declared the most polluted city in the world, no one flinched. Pakistanis from overseas, eager to flaunt their wealth at family weddings, arrived in droves and weddings continued at a steady pace. It didn’t matter that children couldn’t go to school or that planes couldn’t land at the city’s international airport. It didn’t matter that time seemed to say something, to demand a little respect, a change of habits, of mentality. Last week, when snowfall was forecast for Murree, many townspeople decided to leave their own smog-clouded lives. Thousands and thousands of people were on the only road to Murree when heavy snowfall trapped them in their cars. More than twenty people died, including women and children.

These two phenomena are not causally linked but are part of the wider impact of climate change. The warming of the oceans which now brings catastrophic rains and flooding to Karachi almost every year, the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere, have all triggered a catastrophic uproar in the weather conditions of various regions. According to the World Bank, 800 million people living in South Asia are particularly vulnerable to the disastrous effects of climate change, as their fragile ecosystems are ravaged by pollutants and climate change. By 2030, economic losses from climate change in the region will average $ 160 billion per year. Worse yet, by 2050, more than 40 million people from South Asia could become climate migrants, scouring the earth in search of the country that leads them. A recent article describing migrants crossing the Darien Gap, a dangerous jungle on the Panama-Colombia border in Central America, found groups of Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Afghans. With their traditional subsistence farming lost forever, their families had collected money to pay someone who had promised them to go somewhere. Who knows where it was, but they were trying to get to the United States through Central America. They did not succeed.

When tragedies like Murree take place, the immediacy of the event provokes a lot of outrage. People argue and argue over who is responsible for a complex debacle involving system failures of the local and national emergency framework. At the same time, it is important to recognize that this framework was never created with the idea of ​​“climate resilience” in mind. Climate resilience requires that mechanisms and contingency plans be created with the knowledge that extreme weather events will no longer be the rare events they once were, but increasingly common. The flood that has happened every ten years will happen every year, the record snowfall several times a season, and so on. To survive these kinds of events, poor countries will likely have to borrow more from international institutions like the World Bank and the IMF. Hopefully this means that the children of various government officials, past and present, will not spend the proceeds of these loans to fund their Harvard education and garish marriages upon their return.

This seems unlikely, however. Indeed, even if the frequency of these climatic disasters is increasing, the wealth gap between the richest and the poorest in South Asia is also increasing. This poses a problem because investing in emergency services, managing and preventing natural disasters, educating the public about climate change, are all public goods that do not directly benefit anyone. This means that governments are generally reluctant to invest in them because preventing a disaster does not allow political leaders to claim a particular type of victory. Short-sighted political leaders in India, for example, are refusing to pledge to cut emissions as hundreds of millions of Indians now suffer from respiratory problems. The reason, as I mentioned, is simple: what politician can claim victory if a car is able to tackle a snowy road or if a child is saved from asthma?

What politician can claim victory if a car is able to tackle a snowy road or if a child is saved from asthma?

It is not only weather events that will doom the people of South Asia. Food systems and landscapes are expected to be particularly threatened as riverbeds dry up and desertification intensifies. This would be a particular problem in Pakistan, which depends on the agricultural sector to feed its people and for its exports. By the time the government – any government of any party – wakes up to the hell that is in store for Pakistanis, it will simply be too late.

Respecting the innocent lives lost in Murree as a result of a blizzard requires recognizing that our system of governance is not designed to handle such events. It may even be that the snowstorm in the hill station area was not unusual, but the fact is, cumulatively speaking, the pressure of rapidly changing environmental conditions requires far greater action than Pakistan. currently considering. It should be remembered that climate change is not a catastrophic event, not even two or even ten: it is the cumulative pressure of all these events that puts a strain on existing systems. When this is combined with the mismanagement and endemic failures that plague city management systems, the consequences are deadly and dire.

Most Pakistanis do not believe in climate change. Concerns about environmental impoverishment and the links between individual events and climate change must seep into collective consciousness. While Pakistan’s coastal cities have seen the sad combination of local government failures and climate and weather changes, it appears others closer to Islamabad have not. The way out of the catastrophic consequences of individual weather events is to understand how the two fit together to create the Age of Climate Fury.

The writer is a lawyer and teaches constitutional law and political philosophy.

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Posted in Dawn, le 12 January 2022


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